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Sarnia Sting axe Jacques Beaulieu as coach-GM, in wake of assault charges last month

Jacques Beaulieu was 69-55-12 in 2 seasons with Sarnia (Aaron Bell, OHL Images)

The firing is not necessarily because of the assault charges, but evidently it is necessary. One month plus a day after Jacques Beaulieu and his 20-year-old son, Montreal Canadiens prospect Nathan Beaulieu, were were each charged with two counts of assault, the elder Beaulieu has been discharged from his duties with the Ontario Hockey League's Sarnia Sting.

The Sting specified that their decision did not stem from the club's performance across the past two seasons, which might arch an eyebrow because of Beaulieu's legal situation.

“Effective immediately the ownership group of the Sarnia Sting has relieved Jacques Beaulieu of his duties as General Manager and Head Coach. The reasons for his dismissal are not related to the on ice performance of our hockey club. As per the advice of our lawyers we cannot comment any further at this time.” (sarniasting.com)

The OHL is far from the only league where coaches or players have remained active in the league while the wheels of justice ground ever so slowly. That's how it should be, since there is a presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

The court of public opinion, though, works the other way. This raises suspicions that the Sting, who finished seventh in the Western Conference and were swept 4-0 by Plymouth in the first round of playoffs, might have faced a community backlash over Beaulieu. Specifying that it wasn't about the team's play might have been an attempt at mollification.

It also reads like the Sting have planned this for while, but simply needed to get it lawyered so it wouldn't look like it was directly due to the criminal charges. Beaulieu's duties with the team, at least when he first came aboard in 2011, also included areas beyond coaching and personnel.

Beaulieu was fired in Saint John in spring 2009 after assembling the early elements of a strong Sea Dogs team, which went on to play in three consecutive President's Cup finals under Gerard Gallant and Mike Kelly. The club won the league twice and also added the 2011 Memorial Cup. Suffice to say, his tenure in Sarnia has ended even more ignominiously, but hockey guys tend to have a lot more than nine lives.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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